We’ve heard about schemes to gather solar power directly from space before, but designers at Japan’s Shimizu Corporation have taken the idea to a new level with the Luna Ring, a concept solar power plant on the moon. The plan involves building a 6,800 mile “solar belt” around the moon, beaming electricity to earth with microwaves and lasers, and setting up receiving stations on Earth where the power can then be used.
Shimizu even has a grand plan for bringing the resources for the solar plant to the moon. Humans will barely be involved–all construction will be taken care of by robots with oversight from astronauts. The company explains that, “Water can be produced by reducing lunar soil with hydrogen that is imported from the Earth. Cementing material can also be extracted from lunar resources. These materials will be mixed with lunar soil and gravel to make concrete. Bricks, glass fibers and other structural materials can also be produced by solar-heat treatments.”
Compelling ideas, to be sure, but we’d like to see evidence that any of this is possible. If we can’t get robots to fix an oil spill 5,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, how can we possibly expect them to build a gigantic solar power plant on the moon? Even if this whole scheme was proven possible, the costs would be astronomical — pun fully intended. Still, we can’t fault Shimizu for being ambitious. And while a 6,800 mile solar belt may be far-fetched, that doesn’t mean a more reasonably-sized solar power plant can’t someday end up on the moon.